I have now had two weeks to ponder on the issue of my pipes and the aftermath of the affair, how it has irrevocably changed the relations between inhabitants in the block. For a number of weeks there had been rumblings coming from the pipes in my flat. The trembling would start up at random moments throughout the day and I had to open up the cold water tap in the kitchen for a moment to silence it. Sometimes when I came home in the evening the pipes were resonating freely. Had it been going on all day in my absence? After a couple of weeks I received an email from the block directors. A number of residents were suffering from rumbling pipes; some even referred to them as hammering. It was finally understood that the problematic flats all lay on an axis running from the general position of my ground floor flat and my neighbours up to the top floor on the fifth or sixth floor, about ten or twelve flats. A plumber was sent in to examine the problem. Keys were left to grant him access. When I got home that afternoon, one of the directors came round to see me. It was my flat that was the culprit. I had a leak in a tap and it was causing all the brouhaha. I called my plumber, had the taps changed and the rumbling stopped. I sent out apologies to the stack of affected residents. Mea culpa. It had been my solitary, weeping tap that had caused the chaos, the sleepless nights, the infuriating days. A tiny leak had led to communal impatience. I had noted the leak but thought that the rumblings were causing the leak and not vice versa, fatally confusing cause and consequence. And now, when I pass the residents in the courtyard they know me. I read the reproachful look in their eyes; they note my sorry hangdog expression. I will be forever known as the man who made the pipes tremble. It may well be the first step on the incremental and inevitable route to total exclusion. Invitations to the annual barbecue will no longer flutter through my letter box. I, of course, avoid these functions anyway. I will no longer be expected at the Annual Residents Meeting. I, of course, do not attend these dreary affairs. Neighbours will no longer merrrily drop off their key with me to let in the man reading the metre. I am surely the last man in the world for such gestures of trust and communal appreciation. Come to think of it, I am well down that road to eccentric loner already. No wonder my Amazon packages always get sent back to the depot when a benevolent neighbour could surely find a temporary shelter for them. Now, however, I know how to control the pipes. In neighbour wars, you never know what might come in handy.
Derren Brown, the television hypnotist, says that the tranche of the population most easily hypnotised is ‘young men’, especially when they are hypnotised by an older man. Another point he makes is that when hypnotising groups of people on stage a number of the hypnotees actually pretend to be hypnotised. This may be a phenomenon more marked in certain cultures where group participants might be less willing to spoil a show for an audience and so play along, or less willing to stand out from a crowd by not fulfilling the demands of the hypnotist.
All of this throws up interesting issues that may well be relevant to, amongst other things, sports psychology. An older man on the touchline of a football match, a coach or manager, one who is a potent, virulent presence, will have an effect on the young players, motivate them, drive them on to better performances. Antonio Conte storming on the touchline at Chelsea is a real plus for the team. Equally, the presence of an orchestra conductor driving an orchestra on can have a significant effect on the orchestra. This mentor figure, be it a he or she, in football, music or in schooling, is a key performance driver. It is not just children who want to please a mentor, though I suppose it needs to be a respected mentor, one with authority or charisma. So when the coach, as they say, loses the dressing room, performance statistics can plummet. See what happened to Claudio Ranieri at Leicester. Is it happening to Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? Preserving the faith of the players in the coach or manager is vital and collectively a team can sink when that bond of belief is shattered. This is tantamount to a religious experience, but when the faith in the prophet is gone, the whole system implodes.
Insecurities can be expoited. Perhaps the greater the collectivity, the easier the exploitation. A group of spectators in a theatre is easier than an individual. And cultures or masses easier still.
My dad, who died last week, was in his last months afflicted by what we might call lateral category confusion. He went round to see the neighbours with a bar of soap and asked them how he was supposed to cook it. He looked at a handful of nuts left in his hand that he was unable to eat from a Cabbury’s Wholenut bar and asked how much they were were worth and how he could spend them. He sat down down in the dentists chair and when asked by the dentist what was the matter told him he had a bad shoulder. His categories had all got mixed up.
It’s actually what happens when we create a metaphor where a mix-up of categories is seen as a creative interpretation of data. It’s also what happened to Jack in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ who swapped his cow for a handful of beans at the the market. Just what Jack was thinking when he bought the beans the fairy tale does not tell us. Was he thinking those beans would be a sound finnacial investment for his mother (this was, i believe, a one-parent family). The shareholders of the company (ie mum) were unimpressed but Jack knew better or was it that he just got lucky? The beans became a beanstalk and a route to a high yield investment, once the threats of the European Union (ie the giant) had been negotiated. Jack had made a lateral category shift from livestock to agriculture and it paid off. Dad was making those shifts all the time in the end. He should have been running the Brexit negotiations. Jean-Claude Juncker would have been stumped by him.
So, I am talking to someone who is telling me about parking and about Asda and my mind is wandering because parking and Asda are not on my mind at the moment. The subject of universities comes up and my interlocutor tells me he was at Leicester Poly and its name got changed to De Montford University and I say, Ah Simon de Montford, what was he all about then? And my interlocutor doesn’t know. So I say, well Leicester’s been in the news a lot recently, hasn’t it? But my interlocutor gives me a puzzled look. So I say: Claudio Ranieri? No recognition from my interlocutor. Winning the Premership title? I say. Still nothing. And then there’s Richard III, I say. But he is not very familiar with that story either, so I tell the story of the body discovered in the car park. Ah, the car park! This rings a bell. You see how all stories go back to parking in the end. We had found a point of contact.